It has been said, at least by dentists, that the mouth is a window into what may be going on in the rest of the body. A thorough oral exam can often reveal things that reflect upon one’s overall health status. Signs of nutritional deficiencies, the presence of certain systemic diseases such as leukemia, Sjogren’s syndrome, and diabetes are but a few examples of potentially serious conditions that have been initially discovered by a dentist.
Research has shown a link between the bacteria and inflammation associated with periodontal disease and cardiovascular and atherosclerotic disease (see my blog The Direct Link Between Dental Health and General Health). These are published studies that link gum inflammation and oral infections to heart disease and strokes. People with uncontrolled diabetes often have more severe periodontal problems.
Conversely, the presence of gum disease can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Chronic conditions such as periodontal disease initiate an inflammatory response by the body. One such by-product of these protective “call to arms” by the body’s natural defenses is the liver’s production of chemicals called C-reactive proteins. The presence of these proteins is somehow linked to vascular disease.
Although periodontitis (gum disease) may contribute to the aforementioned health conditions (and other conditions – see my blog Poor Dental Health Can Lead To Dementia), it is important to understand that just because two conditions occur at the same time doesn’t necessarily mean one condition causes the other (ADA: Healthy Mouth Healthy Body, 2006) More research is needed, but there definitely appears to be a correlation. There is even a link between periodontal infections and premature births and low birth weights.
Brushing your teeth thoroughly (for two minutes) twice a day and regular flossing are important steps in ensuring optimal dental health as is seeing your dentist regularly. For those adults who have been somewhat erratic in seeking dental care, remember that only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove the plaque and tartar that accumulates below the gum line. Plaque and tartar are very tenacious in their adherence to tooth structure. Trying to clean one’s own teeth without periodic professional prophylaxis would be akin to cleaning barnacles off of a boat’s hull with a garden hose.
Having been in dental practice for nearly thirty years, I have seen many middle- aged adults, typically men (as women usually have better track records when it comes to health care) walk into my office after not receiving regular dental care for many years. Often “too busy” for periodic examinations and cleanings and with no history of pain (gum disease often progresses silently without signs or symptoms), a sudden dental emergency brings the 50-60 year old in for treatment. Emergency examination often reveals a host of problems that have been lying- in- wait for quite some time. It is never too late to commit to getting healthy.
While comprehensive dentistry for the neglected dentition can be extensive and expensive, the first order of business is to relieve the pain that brought the patient into the office. Then after a thorough examination and diagnosis, a treatment plan is developed that gives priority to stabilizing the patient’s oral condition, i.e., eliminating infection, treating decay and reducing inflammation. Only after this is accomplished can thought be given to restoring one’s dentition to a state of beauty and long term health. A beautiful smile is a healthy smile. And a healthy smile can be a pathway to overall good health.
Dr. Michael Sinkin has been practicing dentistry for over two decades. He truly cares about the experience his patients have and takes great pride in making them feel relaxed and comfortable during every visit. Come in for an appointment and experience a different kind of dental practice. To find out more about Dr. Sinkin, please click here.